This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Urni Ganguly. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why I Think Creating A Transgender Durga Is Problematic

More from Urni Ganguly

By Somrita Urni Ganguly:

Durga is Kali. Durga is Parvati. Durga is Shakti.

Durga is a warrior. Durga is time. Durga is a protector.

No matter which version of the myth you choose to believe, Durga is a mother, a woman, a fertile creator.

According to the Shiva Purana, Shiva had invoked Durga, in the form of Parvati, so that together they could create.

According to Devi Mahatmya, the male pantheon, when unsuccessful in checking the demoniac powers of Mahisasura, created Durga in the form of Shakti to quell the forces of evil.

durga puja

And therefore I have reservations with the creation of a transgender idol of Durga at the Jay Mitra Sarbojonin (community) – a small neighbourhood off Kumortoli, the humble potters’ quarter in North Calcutta.

That the transgender community suffers a woeful predicament in this country is an acknowledged fact. Previous articles for Youth Ki Awaaz bear testimony to the fact that I personally, fiercely fight for their human rights and champion their cause – not that I need to testify. However, I cannot fully comprehend the rationale behind creating a transgender Durga.

Anybody familiar with Hindu mythology would know that the concept of the Ardhnareshwar – or the androgynous superpower – is not an alien one. It is the union of purush (the male principle) and prakriti (the female principle) that gives birth to time, that creates life. It is necessary, in the present context, to highlight the essential double-standards of a society that worships the idea of the Ardhnareshwar, but ostracizes members of the transgender community. However, in my opinion, to recreate Durga in the image of the Ardhnareshwar is problematic.

The politics of Durga being a woman and then being gifted – or, however, you choose to read the story – with weapons that belonged to male deities, who collectively lost in their several attempts to control Mahisasura, is an idea that we still need to sustain our discourse on now, because of the everyday living realities of women, not just in this nation, but the world over.

Championing the rights of one community cannot come at the cost of another. That is precisely why the first two waves of feminism had to be replaced by Third Wave Feminism because when we talk rights we cannot, in an extremely dilettante fashion, talk merely of the rights of a heterosexual, middle class, normative, white, working woman. We need to include in the polemics the rights of the Adivasis of Africa, the Dalits of India, the lesbians of Latin America and the transgender community of Columbia.

Why Durga Needs To Stay A Woman

Legend in Bengal says that without adding the punya mati (pure soil) obtained from a nishiddha palli (forbidden territory) to the clay figure of Durga, the idol is not complete. The rationale behind such an act is interesting: that when a man enters a brothel for sexual gratification, he leaves his virtues behind at the threshold, thus rendering the land under the feet of the sex-worker pure. And this soil has to be begged off and collected particularly from the hands of a sex-worker. It is believed that the Goddess cannot be satisfied unless a sex-worker ‘blesses’ the idol maker by giving him some punya mati from her nishiddha territory.

There is a poignant sense of beauty in this whole act of seeing a man begging a sex-worker – the same person that he would otherwise chastise and rebuke – for some pure soil from under her impure feet in an attempt to please an imagined construct of a Goddess. That the Mother Goddess (or the idea of Durga) stands for other suffering women, in whatever little way she can, is indeed something that we need to take note of. As a woman, she is both the beloved and the betrayed; both the sinner and the saint.

And therefore Durga needs to remain a woman while we simultaneously fight for the rights of other women and queer individuals – sex workers, lesbians, bisexuals, gays, and transgenders. Because her being a woman is simultaneously liberating and a reason for hope, along with being a manifestation of the essential hypocrisy of a patriarchal society.

Ya devi sarvabhuteshu shanti rupenna samasthitaa – let us hail that devi, that woman, who exists in all beings in the form of peace, consciousness, intelligence, sleep, hunger, power, thirst, modesty, faith, beauty, kindness, delusion, and contentment. (Stotra from Devi Mahatmya).

And let us hail the Ardhnareshwar, the union of man and nature, male and female – the originator of life. Let us hail them simultaneously, but separately. And let us imbibe from these separate myths, the basic idea of respecting individuals, just the way they are.

You must be to comment.
  1. Adya

    Man and nature? Or do you mean humans and nature? And what does it mean?

  2. Pallavi Sharma

    Dear Urni,

    You make your point well. Durga has historically symbolized the ‘feminine power’, for the want of a better phrase. However, when we dismiss or rebuke an attempt to envision the Goddess in departure from what is customarily accepted, aren’t we pandering to the same social framework that breeds contempt for those who depart from their socially prescribed roles? I understand where you are coming from when you say that one cannot push for a cause at the cost of another. What befuddles me is the process of reaching the universal agreement on which battle to be fought first. When India was fighting for independence, feminist pursuit for rights took a back-seat to the fight for a national and political identity. One may be compelled to wonder if the space of political resistence and dialogue was so restricted that it could only accommodate one voice for one cause.

    Great post! Keep up the good work 🙂


  3. Saksham Bhatnagar

    Really? so being a woman is about having a vagina, is it? So the transgender idol cannot bear the female Durga? news flash! gender and sex are NOT EQUAL. i thought this was a basic feminist concept! you dont have to have a certain set of genitals to be a woman. nor do you need to present a certain way! the transgender idol is female too! and guess what? there are a hundred female idols with a feminine presentation all over Kolkata. but oh no, the trans people cannot make their own idol which they can identify with! the trans people don’t get to venerate the Mother as they see Her. no?

    really, there are idols which have blackened faces, idols which have no stomach, idols which look like aliens or Durga knows what else. But how dare they make Durga trans?! ugh, this post makes me sick.

    know this. Durga the warrior is symbolic of breaking heteropatriarchal biases. when she picks up the weapons of the other gods and adorns the yagyopavit out of her own kundalini, she is breaking the stereotype that women are supposed to be demure docile slaves to be kept inside the house, away from public gaze. and no, your cis privilege will not bind Her either.

    a girl is worshipped as Durga in the Kumari Pujan in a Durgotsav. later on She goes on to identify as a trans man or a lesbian or gender queer or gender fluid. does it mean She stops being Durga?! Does it mean she wasn’t Durga when she was worshipped?

    you might not identify with a trans Durga. But it does not give you a license to take a dump over the worship of others. You are no one to comment on it, unless you are the pujari worshipping the idol for the community or the maker of the idol. this sort of opinion is what has offended me to write on why the Trans Durga is a great idea.

    oh and did i mention? Durga is NOT FERTILE! She was cursed by Rati to never be able to give birth by natural means.

    1. Anwesh

      Thank you! Could not have framed it better.

      I find it weird when cis straight women bulldoze over trans rights. Like they don’t face enough persecution.

  4. Ritwik Goswami

    Ugh! Medieval minded-ness flashing through. What a shitty article. Quietly reiterating that a cis-gendered straight woman will always be superior to a transgender, are you? Ugh!

  5. Vid

    I think its a great idea. By making Durga transgender nobody is denying Durga of her feminine power. But it conserves the basic idea of Hinduism – feminity is power. And that feminity cannot be defined by just having a vagina. Trans also face sexism horribly. And everyone should know that in Hinduism trans, lesbians and gays were never considered abnormal. In fact, they were given a more privileged status. This is also why Hinduism philosophy can never be compared with other religions.

More from Urni Ganguly

Similar Posts

By Abhishek Verma

By AYA As You Are

By Imran Khan

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below